Microsoft Rebrands VDI Service as Azure Virtual Desktop

Microsoft on Monday announced its "Azure Virtual Desktop" (AVD) service, which is the new name for its existing Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service.

Windows Virtual Desktop, commercially launched in September 2019, lets organizations remotely access true Windows 10 and Windows 7 desktops, as well as applications, which are hosted in virtual machines (VMs) on Microsoft Azure datacenters. This virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approach brings the benefits of centralized management and the option to use thin-client devices, but it's also been somewhat complex to set it up. Moreover, WVD use comes with the complexities of overseeing Azure hosting costs.

Microsoft is changing the WVD name to AVD to stress that the service is becoming "a flexible cloud VDI platform for nearly any use case -- accessible from virtually anywhere," according to Kam VedBrat, partner group program manager, in the announcement. He also said that Microsoft will be aiming to give organizations "the flexibility to customize and build solutions with its core technology," although he didn't elaborate on this point.

In addition to the name change, the announcement described some new capabilities coming to the AVD service, mostly at the preview stage. Microsoft plans to further discuss some of them in a June 18 Web presentation.

Not Just Windows-Hosted?
Close Microsoft VDI partner Nerdio suggested that such flexibility and the AVD name change may indicate that Windows won't be the only operating system hosted. Here's how Vadim Vladimirskiy, Nerdio's founder and CEO, put it in a Nerdio blog post:

Azure Virtual Desktop is likely to not remain exclusive to Windows, whereas Windows Virtual Desktop certainly implied that. This means that other desktop OS support (e.g. Linux) could possibly be introduced in AVD in the future. 

Azure AD Domain Joins To Come
Microsoft is adding an Azure Active Directory domain-join capability to the AVD service, which will work with any device having "basic credentials" support. The Azure AD domain-join capability will "streamline" some AVD deployments, Microsoft contended:

For certain scenarios, this [Azure AD domain-join capability] will help eliminate the need for a domain controller, help reduce cost, and streamline your deployment. While this is a major milestone, it's just the beginning of the journey towards full integration with Azure Active Directory. We will continue adding new capabilities such as support for single sign-on, additional credential types like FIDO2, and Azure Files for cloud users.

This Azure AD domain-join preview will be "coming soon."

Microsoft Endpoint Manager VM Preview
Microsoft Endpoint Manager now has the ability to automatically enroll the Azure VMs that are used with the AVD service. This capability is "available now in preview" for those organizations using the Windows 10 Enterprise Multisession operating system. It's one of the management improvements that Microsoft highlighted back in January.

Windows 10 Enterprise Multisession is one of the operating system options available with the AVD service (with the other being Windows 7). Microsoft described this VM management preview using Microsoft Endpoint Manager with AVD as being similar to managing "shared physical devices."

QuickStart Preview in Azure Portal To Come
The Azure Portal will be getting the ability to more easily onboard the AVD service via an "automated deployment" that follows "best practices." Microsoft is promising that this coming QuickStart capability will take "only a few clicks" to set the AVD service.

The Azure Portal QuickStart preview will be "coming soon." When available, it'll be found under the "Azure Virtual Desktop blade" within the portal.

New Per-User AVD Pricing Option To Come
Microsoft plans to institute a new per-user AVD pricing option for organizations, which will be available starting on Jan. 1, 2022.

With this option, organizations can offer streaming applications to their external "customers and business partners" something that independent software vendors might want to do. The cost on Jan. 1, 2022 for this per-user option will be $5.50 per user per month, or $10 per user per month if organizations also want to include the use of the desktop OS. Also, there will be Azure hosting costs to pay.

A no-cost promotional offering of this per-user AVD service for external users will be available from July 14, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021, the announcement indicated.

Partner Plaudits
Microsoft's announcement put in a good word for its AVD partners. There are "hundreds" of them. Certified AVD partners can be found at Microsoft's Advanced Specialization page.

Citrix and VMware were called out in particular as being able to help organizations "maximize your existing investments and use the tools and solutions with which you are already familiar" when moving to the AVD service.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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